Feeling Torn About Pumping

Is breast always best? Mothers share their experiences about stopping breastfeeding/ pumping, coping with the stigma of switching to formula, and overcoming guilt.

bottlefeeding

 

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A mother wrote to the Advice Group anonymously:

 

“Hoping to get some feedback from the group regarding whether I should continue pumping. I'm a first time mom to an 8 week old baby girl.  We had difficulties latching while in the hospital and met with every lactation consultant there (flat nipples, questionable mild case of tongue tie, exhausted mom after emergency c section, and so forth).
I wound up leaving the hospital and getting a hospital grade pump and told myself I would commit to pump for one month, which I did, at all hours of the night and day.  A month later, I  very very gradually began introducing some formula which my daughter seemed to adjust to just fine.  I gradually decreased my time spent pumping,  now doing it 3 times a day since late December.  In the beginning, I felt good that while I couldnt breastfeed, at least my daughter was getting breastmilk.  However, at this point I've grown to really hate pumping.  I feel my time would be better spent actually with my daughter (hate hearing her cry while I'm pumping and not being able to attend to her) , catching up on sleep, or just about anything else.  Yet I feel guilty that I didn't pursue breastfeeding further when I came home from the hospital, and that I'm ready to give up pumping so quickly. It seems like all the moms in my new mom group are breastfeeding which makes me feel worse.  When I ask my husband what he would do if in my shoes , he repeatedly says "it's up to me".  I think he secretly thinks I should continue but has no idea how aggravating it is.  We had a difficult time getting pregnant, then an emergency c section, and frankly I'd like to enjoy the rest of my short maternity leave.  Has anyone been in the same boat and if so, any words of wisdom?”

 

Responses:

 

Lesson learned: I wish I put less pressure on myself.
Advice to the poster: Try a 50/50 breastmilk/ formula blend to reap the benefits of both. 
“This is a question only you can answer, but know that in recent years, a real social stigma has developed around not breast-feeding.  By choice or due to medical reasons, women who don't breastfeed are often pressured to keep trying or are made to feel badly for not being successful.  A whole industry around breast milk seems to have sprung up to fulfill the needs of those who don't have access to breastmilk, either through adoption or for medical reasons.
I say this so that you make the decision based on your own needs and not the social pressures around it.  I also had a very difficult time breast-feeding (low supply) and stubbornly did my best for 8 months.  I was crazy enough that I would get up to pump when my baby's father would feed my son a bottle of formula in the middle of the night.  Talk about defeating the purpose of having the partner feed the baby so the mom could rest...  I would freak out when my parents or the nanny gave my son more breastmilk than I'd budgeted/rationed.  Every drop was precious.
In retrospect, I would have eased up on the pressure I put on myself about breastmilk and settled on a more compromise position with a blend of formula and breastmilk.  We ended up that way anyway because by month 8 when we ended breastfeeding, I was only doing a morning and evening feed anyway.  Recognizing that breastmilk does have its benefits, maybe you don't need to give up entirely but find a middle ground with a more 50/50 blend approach or whatever ratio suits your needs?  Of course, talk about it with your pediatrician based on how your baby is doing weight-wise, but a stressed out mom is definitely no good for the baby/family.
Good luck making your decision.”

 

Lesson learned: Nursing can get easier after 8-12 weeks.
Key advice: Try a lactation consultant.
“It sounds like you are pumping without being able to directly breastfeed which is just miserable. I'm so impressed you made it 8 weeks. I did that for a week plus but then was able to decrease pumping and increase breastfeeding which helped immensely, and I got to stop pumping all together by 3-4 weeks.
I did want to say that if you haven't seen a lactation consultant recently it might be worth it to try again. I found hospital LCs to be stretched too thin and not so helpful. I saw a few different LCs who came to my house and helped a lot with establishing breastfeeding over the course of many weeks. I also found nursing got dramatically easier between 8-12 weeks as my son was able to support his head more and we both had more practice.
I'd say the only reason to keep pumping (given that you're miserable) is to keep up supply in order to be able to establish breastfeeding. If nursing isn't something that seems feasible then switch to formula and don't look back. You have to do what feels right for you.

 

Lesson learned: each baby is different.
Key advice: do what you need to do to be happy
“You should not be hard on yourself regarding not breastfeeding after you came back from the hospital.  There is a lot going on and those first few weeks are hard.
I would like to say that a big part of breastfeeding outcome is determined by the baby.  I have twin girls and one took the breast right away and the other one HATED it with passion.   Same mom, same birth, same breasts and two completely different outcomes to breastfeeding.  If I only had X. (boob lover) I would have believed that breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world. If I only had Y. (blood hater) I would have never breast fed.  What ended happening was one twin was breast fed while the other one got formula and pumped milk. And I felt very guilty about stopping pumping even though I also hated it.
I hereby share an article that I found very helpful when I was also struggling with the guilt and the pressure about breastfeeding: http://fivethirtyeight.com/ features/everybody-calm-down- about-breastfeeding/
I believe that the mom needs to be happy and healthy to do all the work of caring for a baby. And I can attest that there is no difference between the twin that was breast fed and the one that got mostly formula. They are both healthy and happy girls.
I hope you are happy with whatever you decide to do.”

 

Lesson learned: don’t push yourself, it can lead to tissue damage.
Key advice: try a breastfeeding/ lactation consultant to coach you instead.

“I was in nearly the exact same situation you describe with my child, only difference being the c-section was planned. I met with every lactation consultant in the hospital and pumped probably six times a day for the first three months. It was all-consuming, exhausting, and I felt pulled away from my son constantly. I cried whenever anyone suggested "I just try nursing again." I did occasionally put him to the breast, but if he did latch, it lasted a minute or less. I did also struggle with supply issues from the exclusive pumping, so supplementing with formula was an early reality.
If you'd like to continue breastfeeding, I would encourage you to bring a consultant into your home for another try. I did that when my son was three months old and within 20 minutes, we were breastfeeding and I never pumped again. It turns out that all those weeks of pumping with a hospital grade pump stretched my nipple tissue enough so that his more developed mouth could latch without much trouble! And meeting with someone in the quiet of your home after some recovery makes such a difference. I was then able to nurse (with formula supplementation) for a year.
But if it doesn't work out, please do not feel guilty. It's *so hard* for some babies and I know plenty of women who couldn't make nursing happen. And their toddlers, children, teenagers, etc are all happy, healthy, functioning humans. Formula is a gift for those who need it.”

 

 

Lesson learned: Hospital lactation consultants aren't always helpful, and it gets better with time.
Key advice: continue pumping to keep up supply but only if it feels right.

“It sounds like you are pumping without being able to directly breastfeed which is just miserable. I'm so “impressed you made it 8 weeks. I did that for a week plus but then was able to decrease pumping and increase breastfeeding which helped immensely, and I got to stop pumping all together by 3-4 weeks.
I did want to say that if you haven't seen a lactation consultant recently it might be worth it to try again. I found hospital LCs to be stretched too thin and not so helpful. I saw a few different LCs who came to my house and helped a lot with establishing breastfeeding over the course of many weeks. I also found nursing got dramatically easier between 8-12 weeks as my son was able to support his head more and we both had more practice. I'd say the only reason to keep pumping (given that you're miserable) is to keep up supply in order to be able to establish breastfeeding. If nursing isn't something that seems feasible then switch to formula and don't look back. You have to do what feels right for you.”

 

Lesson learned: Don’t allow the social stigma of formula feeding get in the way of enjoying time with the baby.
Key advice: Switch to formula and make the most of your experiences together.
"I wasn't able to breastfeed either (not anatomically able to per lactation people plus baby was a premie) and was shamed into thinking I had to pump or I was depriving my child.  But she was a premie with bad acid reflux and was spitting up my breast milk.  My doctor said I would have to keep adjusting my diet to figure out what the trigger was but in the meantime she was losing weight and I was getting scared.  I started giving her soy formula and she was able to keep it down and gain weight.  I felt like I was losing my mind trying to make breast milk work and also hated the pumping which made both of us unhappy.  I gave up pumping and gave her formula exclusively.  She thrived and grew and I felt better which made us both happier.
Fast forward 10 years and she is happy, smart and healthy and I don't regret my decision.  I regret the time I spent letting people's shaming get in the way of our happiness.  Deep down I know it would have been great if she could have been breastfed but I feel I made the best decision for both of us.

 

Lesson learned: feel confident in your decision, not guilty.
Key advice: so stop the guilt trip!
“I'm a mom to two, my youngest is 10 weeks. I have a disorder that makes breastfeeding very hard. I couldn't make enough no matter what I do. When I was home with my first, I BF when I could and also had issues with latching and such. I had to supplement and pump. I would go to the baby meetups and be the only one with formula and even received a lot of judgement from some moms about using formula (I never explained why I did, it's none of their business). I stopped at 12 weeks, it became too much with the pumping and everything. Now, with a 10 week old I'm still having a hard time and will probably stop soon. I've done the best I could. I feel confident about stopping, formula is just fine. You care for your baby and should enjoy her. Don't feel guilt about stopping. It's hard here, the culture leans towards breast feeding for a long time and when you can't do that you feel less than. My child's MD thinks that whatever I do the child will be fine. And my first is a very healthy, thriving child. Ultimately what you decide is fine. You are doing amazing. Pump/formula, whatever, you're taking care of your child.”

 

Lesson learned: breastfed is overhyped with moms going overboard
Key advice: so liberate yourself from mommy guilt and respect your decision
“Congratulations on your new baby!! What a rough road you've had--it sounds like you're doing an amazing job, and the one thing I can tell you for sure is that whatever you decide is the right choice. It's rare for us to find ourselves in those win-win situations (well, win-win with some tears shed along the way), so that's one good thing, as agonizing as all this stuff can feel. I personally think the push to breastfeed has gone way overboard and love the emergence of the doctrine of "fed is best." We had to give our daughter formula in the hospital when she was born, and when I think about how guilty I felt I just want to fly back in time and shout "pish tosh!" at myself.
Before I had a baby I was so self-righteous about breastfeeding, and now I think a lot of the benefits range from overhyped to total BS. And I say that as someone who's still breastfeeding at 13 months! Because for me, after a few weeks when it was very hard/impossible, it got easier, and I'm lazy and lucky, and who knows what's going on with me emotionally that I haven't stopped. I'll tell you also that my "ebf" baby was the first of her PSP cohort to get a double ear infection, so so much for that.
Anyways, it sounds like you want to stop, and I think you should give yourself permission to. Liberate yourself! Enjoy that baby! I really recommend reading the chapter in Tiny Fey's book Bossypants about pumping for seven weeks and then choosing to switch to formula; it's so funny and touching and true. "Over the whir of the milking machine," she writes, "I could almost hear my baby being lovingly cared for in the other room . . . ."
It sounds like you and your baby are already happy with the formula you're using, which is great! That's a such a big step toward respecting your own decisions.
If you're not quite there and worried that you'll feel regret if you stop (I don't think you should regret it, but I can't even control my own mommy guilt, so I can't tell anyone else how to think), I would recommend seeing one more lactation consultant. I didn't find the ones in the hospital helpful at all--they were always yanking my nipples and sighing at my giant, lazy baby. I saw one when I got home who helped, and I also saw [one] in a group breastfeeding class about a month after my daughter's birth, and she is amazing. [...] Then, if nothing changes, really do give yourself permission. Then it will be back to step 1, i.e., Liberate yourself! Enjoy that baby! My guess is that you will thank yourself for the sleep and the extra time with your daughter.
Whatever you do, good luck!!! I was too depressed one month postpartum to even ask for help, so you are smart and amazing and making excellent choices”

 

Lesson learned: the stress of pumping isn’t worth it.
Key advice: stop pumping and know your child will thrive whether or not they drink breastmilk or formula.
“I also had an unplanned emergency C section and had a VERY hard time breastfeeding. First month I got mastitis, but kept on trucking. Then I had low supply and my 3 month old baby wasn't gaining enough. 1 lactation consultant, 1 lactation doctor, 1 hospital grade pump later, I was pumping 12x a day to make about 12 ounces of milk for her! Then it dwindled down to 6 ounces.
When I finally decided to stop pumping and give her 100% formula, I cried for about 2 hours and felt like a terrible mom. But something amazing happened when I stopped pumping .... I felt SO MUCH RELIEF! I realized a few things:
1) my daughter was thriving whether or not she had breastmilk or formula
2) I am an amazing mom whether my daughter had breastmilk or formula
3) the hours spent on pumping just wasn't worth it to me. The stress wasn't worth it to me. I realized we were both so much happier once I stopped!
3 years later my daughter still grabs my breast when she's going to sleep - it's like she remembers that bond between us! And she's a really healthy, wonderful and well adjusted kid!! This is not to say you should do it or not do it. It's just to say REMEMBER that this parenting stuff is F-ing hard and you're an amazing mom no matter what you decide!”

 

Lesson learned: know you are not alone with this struggle.
Key advice: find someone to talk to about your birthing experience.
“I'm so sorry you are having a tough time nursing.  I had a really really really hard time with it.  Eventually it got better for me, but pumping was an awful, terrible experience.  I hated every single second I pumped. I know it seems like everyone around here is nursing,  and while many women are, there are PLENTY who aren't, for a million reasons.  Post-partum life is hard enough without worrying about being judged for doing what is best for you.  (By the way,  those women you fear are judging you probably feel just as judged about something else). 
I think your instinct -- spending more quality time with your baby -- is a good one.  Your husband probably wants what is best for you -- which is to feel as relaxed and rested as you can.  I'm not sure I'd assume he wants you to continue unless he's said it's somehow especially important (most men don't care as much as we do), but maybe he doesn't want to be responsible for the choice. 
As an important aside, it might be worth finding someone to talk to.  It sounds like the birth was a bit traumatic  (mine was too, and then we moved to a new apartment 3 weeks later).  I had intense anxiety that I was too afraid to share with my husband or my new mom friends.  I wish someone had urged me to seek outside support sooner. .. it can be really tough to see how much you are struggling when you're in the middle of it... 
This mama - hood stuff is really hard.  Lots of us have been through some tough stuff and we are here for you.  Hang in there, mama.”

 

Lesson learned: formula is fine.
Key advice: don’t beat yourself up!
“Don't beat yourself up, you should do what feels right for you and your family. Formula is totally fine and you should not feel guilty for doing it. I too hated pumping, I felt like I was chained to the device, and while it was definitely bittersweet to wean and switch to formula, I don't miss pumping one bit! Good luck whatever you decide.”

 

Lesson learned: formula-fed babies are happy and healthy.
Key advice: the people guilt tripping you won’t be your friends anyway
"I had two friends who had similar trouble breastfeeding and gave their children formula exclusively from 6-8 weeks on. Both kids are now 8, brilliant, happy and healthy. Pumping is a uniquely miserable experience, difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't done it. Know that your baby will be happier and healthier with a happy, less stressed mommy and if that means stopping pumping then go for it! There are so many things first time mothers are expected to "get right" and none more charged than breastfeeding. If other moms are acting self righteous about breastfeeding, they will be the same moms who obsess over potty training, preschool, etc., and they won't be your peeps anyway. Chances are you'll find another mom in a similar situation and you guys can roll your eyes at the others! Ok-- be good to yourself first and foremost. Enjoy your time with your baby!

 

Lesson learned: there are advantages to formula
Key advice: Enjoy sharing the feeding experience with others
“I am so sorry that it has been so hard. It is hard to give up breastfeeding and breastmilk when it was something you wanted, but there are many advantages to formula: other people can participate in feedings, time spent bonding with your baby instead of tied to a pump, no problems with making sure you are producing enough milk. I think formula is great. If you are not enjoying it there is really no reason to continue, I'd say let go of pumping, get some sleep and enjoy the baby. Maternity leave is so short!  

 

Lesson learned: Attitudes of hospital-staff (and others, in general) around breastfeeding is overbearing
Key advice: stop draining yourself and stop.
“ I don't have similar experience, but wanted to say I think you're a hero for pumping this long.  I breastfed b/c it was convenient and easy - I pumped when I wasn't around to feed (mainly once I'd gone back to work).  I can't imagine pumping and bottle feeding, and I fully support a decision to focus on time spent with kid, or sleep or time for yourself, both of which will improve time spent with kid.  I found the attitudes of the hospital and people in general toward breast feeding overbearing at times - mothers have too many opportunities to feel guilt, and I felt many created just one more when it came to nursing.  so anyway it sounds like you feel it's draining you to little benefit (or maybe I'm misinterpreting) - so it sounds totally reasonable to stop.  you tried, and many in your situation would've given up far earlier. best of luck and wishing you joy with the little one.”

 

Lesson learned: a happy wife and mother is a happy baby
Key advice: stop, focus on your recovery, and your baby. Formula isn’t forever!
“You are not alone! I was in your shoes with my first son (almost 4 years old). I stopped pumping completely at 8 weeks with Charlie, and then was on formula exclusively until we introduced others foods. My second son sadly got very little breastmilk, he's a firecracker at 19 months.
My first son had a normal-ish birth, he never latched to the boob. We hired a lactation consultant, and through many tears... nothing. So I pumped day and night, but I never produced more than 4 ounces at a time. I took all the supplements, and the bone broth, etc... nothing. Then at 7 weeks, I developed a breast infection, with a fever and all. So I supplemented with formula. And it was so nice to sleep. I had to admit to myself that the adrenaline that I had been fueled by was gone, empty. All the joy and excitement of being a new parent had worn off, the exhaustion really set in. Also, I was a few months away from my 40th birthday, as a first time mother. It was all too much. I couldn't help but feel that I was letting him down too, but my husband was totally on board. Happy wife, happy life. Our second son was c section, the first wasn't, and he latched immediately, but I just couldn't continue after 2 days in the hospital. He was always hungry, I was in agony, and my boobs really hurt. He went straight to formula after we got home. I just accepted that I need to rest, recover, and nursing just wasn't that important to us.
So I did it, and we went to formula full time.. There are others like us, but as you know, not a whole lot. it sucks not having that camaraderie with such a difficult choice, but know that it is the right one for you (should you choose to). We are lucky to live in the times we do to have formula to feed our babies. So there is no reason not to take advantage of it. The best thing you can do for your baby is love her and give her a well rested mother that can take care of her.
Also, formula is not forever, at 3-4 months (or whatever your pediatrician says) I started them on puréed fruits and veggies. They stop it completely at a year or so. Hope this helped.”

 

Lesson learned: Every mother is different. Talk to seasoned mothers if you can
Key advice: stop!

“Poor you! Pumping sucks! My advice is to stop ASAP, and if you're worried, talk to second- or third- time moms. Some loved breastfeeding and did it a long time with each kid, but the moms who didn't love it did it successively shorter each time, and a lot of third time moms I know did no feeding at all and didn't worry. They just didn't have any of that worry or guilt that first time moms have. And this is just breastfeeding, not pumping, which is AWFUL. Maternity leave is amazing and you should get to have fun. Your kid is going to be way better off getting that time to bond with you and have fun with a relaxed mom than getting breast milk.”

 

Lesson learned: time is too precious to spend it pumping
Key advice: don’t blame yourself
“I feel your pain! I pumped exclusively for 5 months for my first and I vowed not to repeat that for my second. I also felt I wasted precious time with my first distracting her so I could pump instead of being with her. Whatever you choose will be fine in the end, she certainly won't remember, but if I could go back in time I would have stopped. Maybe I would have felt guilty about the lack of breastmilk, but now as a professional in the field of nutrition and women's health, I feel strongly that we are guilted into feeling we have to breastfeed and I also feel strongly that if it has to be formula, it is just fine. Also know that my first couldn't breastfeed because of latch issues and my second was an expert breastfeeder. I did nothing different. So don't blame yourself and don't assume you will never have the chance again, that is if you plan to have more kids. Work on relieving yourself of the guilt and just enjoying every moment you can with the baby. It all passed way too fast. I still have nightmares about the pump!! Feel free to email me at any time--support is so important!!”

 

Lesson learned: parents find there is no difference in the long run
Key advice: so let go!
“Just one person’s opinion but I would give yourself a break and let it go. The research on the benefits of breast milk is not nearly so strong as people make it out to be and pumping really really sucks. Enjoy your time with your baby and don't feel guilty about it. When he is five I promise no one will ever look at him and say- oh, clearly her mother didn't give her enough breast milk.”

 

Lesson learned: It took a while to not care what people thought.
Key advice: Your mental state is more important than the opinion of others.
“People are going to give you all sorts of advice and I suspect many will try to talk you into continuing to pump, but I want to tell you to give yourself a break.
I too had an emergency c section (5 weeks early)  and pumped like a madwoman trying to get anything going. I would tape a formula feeder to my boobs and have my baby latch that way to try to stimulate milk production but nothing worked. I literally never produced an ounce of milk. I had a lactation consultant tell me that I should stop, and the full support of my husband who hated seeing me so exhausted and frustrated and I still felt terribly guilty. Our pediatrician told me that there would be many things to feel guilty about as a mother, but feeding my baby formula should not be one of them. Still, it took me a while to really not care what other people thought.
If you ask me, a happy mom is a better mom and if you feel like it is time to stop then it is. My daughter is now over 3, whip smart, rarely sick, well within a healthy weight range and has a broad and varied palette. She has also benefitted from having a mom who was able to be fully there for her once she stopped trying to pump and breastfeed.
Ultimately the decision is yours, but as long as you feed your baby and take care of yourself whatever you choose to do will be the right thing. Your mental state is more important than others opinions.

 

Ultimately, a happy parent is the best parent!

 

“An unhappy, miserable mommy is not healthy. If pumping is making you miserable, it is okay to let yourself off the hook. Generations of formula-fed babies have turned out just fine. Your child will also.”

“A happy mommy is the best mommy.”

“IMHO, do not guilt trip yourself. Happy mommy = happy baby. Before you know it, baby will start eating puréed bananas, etc. Enjoy your remaining maternity leave and trust your gut as to what's best for you”